MTA adopts advice from mayor and governor to avoid crowded subway cars

Photo by Mark Hallum

The MTA apparently agrees with advice that Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo gave the public to help mitigate the risk of contracting coronavirus: avoid crowded trains and buses.

This advice, however, seemed to come without a promise Monday that capacity will be increased to match this demand. Interim New York City Transit President Sarah Feinberg told reporters at a March 9 press conference that there may not be any good options for commuters.

“We are open to [adding trains and buses] and we’ll continue to take a look at it,” Feinberg said. “Our advice would be to use your common sense in that moment. We also don’t want platforms getting overly crowded, we can run more service here and there, but generally we are very much at capacity.”

For the time being, the MTA simply seems to discourage residents from leaving their homes at all if possible. They suggested, as de Blasio had, that workers telecommute, or use other modes of getting around, such as biking or walking.

“We’ve gotten questions of whether or not we can replace subway service with bus service, I’d say that’s not an option either,” Feinberg continued.

For Feinberg, the discussion came during first official day in the position of president after being temporarily appointed to keep to hold down the fort for Andy Byford’s official replacement.

While de Blasio has advocated for people biking to work, et cetera, safe streets advocates are hoping there be changes to make this notion stick. At worse, Transportation Alternatives fears New Yorkers will simply start taking more cars.

“The mayor is right to encourage more bike commuting,” Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Danny Harris said. “But if the City’s message is simply to avoid crowded trains, and stops short of making bicycling safe and accessible to all, we will end up with more people opting for cars, and congestion that paralyzes this city. Our roads must remain free for emergency and other essential vehicles.”

Some recommendations from the organization? Adopt a zero-tolerance policy on vehicles blocking bike lanes and build “pop-up” bike lanes

One option the MTA has not yet made a decision on is whether or not they will open up thoroughfares managed by the Bridges and Tunnels division to cyclists, according to MTA Chair Pat Foye.